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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tradition; Past, Present and Future

This weekend I'm going to be here . Although, I've never been to the official Oktoberfest, this festival in my hometown is probably the closest I'll come to Munich in the near future. What I like about it is how family friendly the atmosphere is. Most Oktoberfests in the U.S. (or any ethnic festival where alcohol is served) can quickly become overrun with drunken people just out for a good time. At the Liederkranz festival, the focus is on the culture and the people. And the beer, while enjoyable, is in its proper place. The German influence is still strong in Lancaster, and those accompanying traditions and customs are passed down. There is no shortage of children in braids and liederhosen at this Oktoberfest.
When I picture the ideal Catholic community I want to raise my family in, I think not only of self-sufficiency, families lending one another a hand and communal prayer; I think of traditions and culture. I think of a time when all small villages had their own identity, clothing, customs, food and local dialect. Was it so long ago when acceptance was sought amongst your neighbors instead of comparing your lifestyle to those in the entertainment industry? The Jones' next door don't matter so much anymore as the Catherine Zeta-Jones'.
Most media outlets would lead you to believe the only two cities in the world worth inhabiting are NYC and LA. If you live anywhere else, you need to move, and the media tries its darndest to prove anyone 20 miles outside a city is an ignorant country hick. You need the fashions from the East Coast and the gossip from the West for a meaningful existence. If you absorbed all the media had to tell you about your hometown, whether they'd been there or not, you'd likely run screaming to the city.
We've stripped ourselves of any distinct cultural identity in an effort to assimilate into a mass-marketed culture devoid of any meaning or history. America is the great melting pot, but does that mean we can only display our Irish heritage in March and our German in September? And when is the last time you saw anyone publicly take pride in being an American? September 12, 2001? We take more pride in being "unique" and "an individual unencumbered by traditional values." We don't want to be linked to anything or anyone because "we think for ourselves." It's as if celebrating anything besides Gay Pride is offensive anymore.
Certainly, we can't live an exclusionary existence, totally removed from mainstream society. But we shouldn't allow all that is beautiful, innocent and unique to be discarded for a cheap, sexualized, generic society as a means to gain acceptance and approval.
If a tween today told her friends, "Sorry I can't go bump and grind with total strangers at the local teen club with you guys this weekend because I have to perform at the Liederkranz;" what would their response be? If even a twenty-something said he was going to the festival because he enjoys the schuplatller and not the beer, would the response be any different?
Tradition is not cool in today's society, and maybe it never is to teenagers, but mature adults should not be so quick to accept modern customs. They are as meaningful to pass on as an STD. The acceptance of true traditions are not forced down a persons, or populations, throats. They are loved, cherished and passed on carefully so as to maintain the crucial link to the past and the memory of those gone before. Children may reject them at some point, but in maturity turn to them in comfort and embrace them joyfully. I do believe the Amish and many Mennonites exhibit these characteristics.
A community where children are formed with solid Catholic teachings, traditions and local customs is where I want to settle; living in the world, but not of it. Where my children can enjoy the benefits of living in a free country and all it's abundance but not be corrupted by it. Where a small town life still exists, neighbors still look out for one another and everyone attends the local firehouse ham dinner, Memorial Day observance and parades joyfully through the streets behind the Blessed Sacrament.